Employees carry invisible baggage through the door with them every day. Packed inside are the external stressors of life, expectations and fantasies about their job, and their history with power. The contents of this invisible baggage influence an employee’s reactions and behavior in the workplace. The contents may be invisible, but rest assured that there are a lot of visible clues to this baggage if you know what you’re looking for. Let’s start by unpacking the invisible bags.
SMUGGLING CONTRABAND PERSONAL STRESS INTO THE WORKPLACE
If you are alive, then you know that life is complicated and seems to be growing ever more so at an increasingly rapid rate. Employees have an extraordinary number of external stressors that they carry with them into the workplace on a daily basis.
The stressors that employees are experiencing fall into one of three categories: (1) trauma; (2) stress; and (3) irritation. Dealing with loved ones who are dying would fall into the trauma category. The struggles of being a single parent fall into the stress category. Dealing with rude drivers and traffic both fall into the irritation category. It can be tempting to dismiss “irritation stress”, but we all know the irritation associated with driving can actually represent a significant stress upon arriving at work.
In Melanie Gordon Sheets’ book Out-of-Control: A Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) - Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Workbook for Getting Control of Our Emotions and Emotion-Driven Behavior, she identifies an extensive list of common stressors that are assaulting the population (this means your employees). Some items include: (For a full list, please order Pre-Emptive Strike Leadership!)
Challenges with their children
Loved ones away at war/military service
Marital or relationship stress
Bad memories of the past
Struggles of being a single parent
Transportation issues (car breaks down, transit late or out of service making them late)
Stress from significant life changes
Not having enough time to accomplish what they want to do
Every single one of your employees is dealing with multiple stressors EVERY DAY. It is their inescapable reality and, according to research, the less power and financial security one has, the greater the impact of each of these stressors.
Stress in your employees’ personal lives is very real, complicated and playing out in myriad ways in their workplace, made all the more volatile because it must remain hidden. The higher the stress, the higher the stakes. If the workplace environment is one that invalidates personal stress or emphasizes to employees that there’s no place for it at work, employees are much more likely to overreact to authority, nurse grudges, generate divisive environments, and look for outlets to release the building pressure.
Learn more at PreEmptiveStrikeConsulting.com